The first in a serviceable new fantasy series might disappoint those looking for a stronger romantic arc.

THE STORMBRINGER

A woman frees a powerful warrior from a century of stasis and they band together to fight Thyran, a fearsome god set on vengeance.

Darya is a sentinel, a special class of warrior charged with fighting the monsters that ravage her homeland. Sentinels are gifted with magically charged talents and weapons; for example, Darya is impervious to poison and can elude any human-made trap. Sentinels also carry soulswords, weapons that have been mystically infused with the souls of people who chose to serve the gods even after their deaths. Her soulsword is inhabited by Gerant, a powerful wizard who has been an adviser, guide, and friend in their decade of service together. When Darya finds Gen. Amris in the stasis spell, Gerant immediately knows how to undo the spell because he was the one who created it. A century ago, he and Amris were lovers, and Gerant created it for Amris to use as a last-resort protection. Amris quickly rebounds from stasis and agrees to help Darya and Gerant strategize for the coming battle with Thyran. At first, Darya is an unlikely conduit between the two former lovers, but eventually Gerant finds a way for all three of them to bond together to fight Thyran and his armies of undead. They travel back to Darya’s home base to gather other fighters and prepare for war. Darya and Amris are physically drawn to each other, but they each worry they will be betraying Gerant, who is a presence in their lives even though he is no longer human. Although Cooper might have intended for this unusual love triangle to be symbolic of the human desire to gain approval from those who have passed on, it makes for a profoundly weird romance.

The first in a serviceable new fantasy series might disappoint those looking for a stronger romantic arc.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-2928-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

THE SWALLOWED MAN

A retelling of Pinocchio from Geppetto's point of view.

The novel purports to be the memoirs of Geppetto, a carpenter from the town of Collodi, written in the belly of a vast fish that has swallowed him. Fortunately for Geppetto, the fish has also engulfed a ship, and its supplies—fresh water, candles, hardtack, captain’s logbook, ink—are what keep the Swallowed Man going. (Collodi is, of course, the name of the author of the original Pinocchio.) A misfit whose loneliness is equaled only by his drive to make art, Geppetto scours his surroundings for supplies, crafting sculptures out of pieces of the ship’s wood, softened hardtack, mussel shells, and his own hair, half hoping and half fearing to create a companion once again that will come to life. He befriends a crab that lives all too briefly in his beard, then mourns when “she” dies. Alone in the dark, he broods over his past, reflecting on his strained relationship with his father and his harsh treatment of his own “son”—Pinocchio, the wooden puppet that somehow came to life. In true Carey fashion, the author illustrates the novel with his own images of his protagonist’s art: sketches of Pinocchio, of woodworking tools, of the women Geppetto loved; photos of driftwood, of tintypes, of a sculpted self-portrait with seaweed hair. For all its humor, the novel is dark and claustrophobic, and its true subject is the responsibilities of creators. Remembering the first time he heard of the sea monster that was to swallow him, Geppetto wonders if the monster is somehow connected to Pinocchio: “The unnatural child had so thrown the world off-balance that it must be righted at any cost, and perhaps the only thing with the power to right it was a gigantic sea monster, born—I began to suppose this—just after I cracked the world by making a wooden person.” Later, contemplating his self-portrait bust, Geppetto asks, “Monster of the deep. Am I, then, the monster? Do I nightmare myself?”

A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18887-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

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MEXICAN GOTHIC

Moreno-Garcia offers a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror, set in 1950s Mexico.

Inquisitive 22-year-old socialite and anthropology enthusiast Noemí Taboada adores beautiful clothes and nights on the town in Mexico City with a bevy of handsome suitors, but her carefree existence is cut short when her father shows her a disturbing letter from her cousin Catalina, who recently married fair-haired and blue-eyed Virgil Doyle, who comes from a prominent English mining family that built their now-dwindling fortune on the backs of Indigenous laborers. Catalina lives in High Place, the Doyle family’s crumbling mansion near the former mining town of El Triunfo. In the letter, Catalina begs for Noemí’s help, claiming that she is “bound, threads like iron through my mind and my skin,” and that High Place is “sick with rot, stinks of decay, brims with every single evil and cruel sentiment.” Upon Noemí’s arrival at High Place, she’s struck by the Doyle family’s cool reception of her and their unabashed racism. She's alarmed by the once-vibrant Catalina’s listless state and by the enigmatic Virgil and his ancient, leering father, Howard. Nightmares, hallucinations, and phantasmagoric dreams of golden dust and fleshy bodies plague Noemí, and it becomes apparent that the Doyles haven’t left their blood-soaked legacy behind. Luckily, the brave Noemí is no delicate flower, and she’ll need all her wits about her for the battle ahead. Moreno-Garcia weaves elements of Mexican folklore with themes of decay, sacrifice, and rebirth, casting a dark spell all the way to the visceral and heart-pounding finale.

Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-62078-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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